Background and History
The so-called 1922 “No D” or 1922 Plain Lincoln Cent (Buy on eBay) is an intriguing variety that has remained in high demand with collectors. The variety is only identifiable due to a particular set of circumstances that occurred during the year of production. It is now considered to be among the scarcest of the Lincoln cent varieties, especially in high grade, and one of the key dates to an uncirculated set of Lincoln Cents including major varieties.
In 1922, the production of Lincoln Cents only took place at the Denver Mint facility. The Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints, which would have usually produced the denomination, were focused on striking silver dollars which had been reintroduced in the previous year. This resulted in the Denver Mint carrying the sole responsibility for maintaining the supply of freshly minted cents.
When the 1922-D Lincoln Cents were being produced, one of the die pairs severely clashed as the result of a strike with no planchet between the two dies. Clashed dies are a relatively common occurrence within production and are rarely severe enough to warrant special attention. In this instance, the Mint did consider the clash marks to be severe enough to have the obverse die repolished and completely replace the reverse die since it was unsuitable for further production. During the repolishing of the obverse, the mint mark was erroneously removed and the last two digits of the date were weakened.
During any other year, these cents struck at the Denver Mint without the “D” mint mark would have escaped identification since it would have been naturally assumed that the coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, which did not place a mint mark on the coins. However, since the Denver Mint was the only facility producing cents during the year, identification of the variety was possible.
The variety that is described above is known as the “No D, strong reverse,” struck from die pair #2, the most valuable of the 1922 “No D” Lincoln Cents. Die pairs # 1, # 3 & # 4 are less valuable, and struck from different dies. These are called 1922 “Weak D” cents, which were not created by overpolished dies, but by dies filled with grease. As such, traces of the mint mark are sometimes visible, although this is not always the case. Thus, certain die markers are very important when identifying the different die pairs. These die markers mostly include the strength of the lettering and devices.
Key Date Coin Mintage
The 1922-D Lincoln Cent had a total production of 7,160,000 pieces, the lowest number since 1915, but not low enough to create a rarity. However, the “No D, Strong Reverse” variety is a completely different story. The exact number produced is unknown, but a reasonable estimate might be around 25,000 pieces. The total number of survivors is as much guess work, although a figure below 10,000 pieces seems likely.
This variety went somewhat unnoticed during the early decades after its mintage, leading most examples to experience significant circulation. Uncirculated specimens with original Mint red luster are extremely rare. This shows that the survival of the typical circulating coins from this era in high grades is often a matter of pure chance.
Finest Known and Values
As previously mentioned, high-grade examples of the 1922 “No D, Strong Reverse” Lincoln Cent are very rare. This is especially the case with examples graded as original Mint red. In fact, there are only two pieces graded by the major services designated as red, one PCGS MS64RD and one PCGS MS63RD. These two pieces appear to be locked up in specialized collections, leaving only Red-Brown examples available to most collectors.
For coins designed as Red-Brown, there are three examples graded PCGS MS65RB and one graded NGC MS65RB. Examples in uncirculated condition with the Brown designation are similarly rare, with only a single example graded MS65BN by PCGS and a handful graded MS64BN by both services.
It should not come as a surprise that offerings of uncirculated examples of this variety are infrequent. The absolute record at public auction was for an NGC MS64RB, sold in January 2008 for an amazing $92,000. Other pieces in similar grades have been sold for slightly lower amounts, and uncirculated examples of this rare variety usually cannot be found for less than $20,000. Circulated examples are much more available and affordable, although they remain rare and highly popular. Prices for specimens certified in Extremely-Fine condition are approximately $2,500, with the amount gradually reduced for lower grades.
The so-called “Weak D”, or “Weak Reverse” specimens carry lower values, often trading for similar amounts as regular 1922-D Lincoln Cents. They are also slightly more available in high-grade, although fewer examples have been certified by the major grading services across all grades. It must be noted that both PCGS and NGC recognize the different die pairs and also note whether the coin has a “weak D” or “weak reverse.”